Russia, China, the United States, Canada and Great Britain have already embarked on projects for SMR (Small Modular Reactors) plants, in other words mini nuclear plants. France, late, will release a billion euros to develop nuclear energy. Faced with global warming and the rise in fossil fuel prices, the path to these mini-reactors is being studied all over the world.
A lot of advantages
Mini nuclear power plants are more accessible and less expensive. They are built in the factory, almost “turnkey”, in a few months, where a conventional plant requires on average 7 years before being operational.
They make it possible to reach remote regions where the electricity networks do not have large capacities. In Russia, the first SMR put into service is floating, placed on a platform facing Pevek, a town of 4,500 inhabitants in eastern Siberia. They cost less too.
SMR reactors operate at ambient pressure, less concrete is needed to protect them because it is less dangerous than conventional power plants. They need less water to cool down. In addition, the reactors of mini-power plants are fast neutron, which implies a better capacity to burn nuclear waste.
Race for technology
Obviously, a mini-power plant produces less energy. A conventional nuclear power plant can produce up to 1650 megawatts, while the reactor of a mini-power plant can reach a maximum of 300 megawatts. But their development would drastically reduce the production of fossil fuels on the planet.
About sixty projects are underway around the world. According to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, three are operational in India, China and Russia. Five more are under construction.
The United States and Russia are the main players in SMR, each with 18 projects, far ahead of Japan (four), China (four) and Europe (three including one in France). The French project, developed by CEA, EDF, TechnicAtome and Naval Group, would be intended primarily for export.